Most Agree: Straight Party Option is Bad
This scheme…gets pernicious…farther down the ballot, in legislative races with lesser-known candidates. Minus the straight-ticket option, many voters who are ignorant of those candidates and their issues would leave those races blank, letting more knowledgeable voters decide the matter. With the option, voters blindly sweep into office candidates they’ve never heard of.
Rep. David Segal “tend[s] to support getting rid of the straight-ticket lever,” but thinks Achorn is blaming all of the GOP woes on the SPV option and observes that most of the legislature would have gone Democrat without all SPV option votes anyway. True, but I don’t think Achorn is blaming it all on the SPV, just pointing out that it is but one of the stumbling blocks to having a two-party state, which even George Nee supports (if with a wink). Besides, if a party is built from the bottom up, then it’s not at the Legislative level–where Segal focuses–but at the school committee and town council level where candidates cut their teeth. As I’ve shown, Republicans and especially Independents are really outgunned when faced by the SPV option in such local, down-ticket contests.
TPublico, a contributor at RI Future, has also run the numbers (in more detail than me) and is similarly against the SPV option. He also notes of his fellow RI Futurites:
…it’s no wonder that some on this site don’t see a problem with straight ticket voting because though it’s true that Dems hold a significant edge on the SPV, it’s the so called “Progressive” candidates that lead the pack in SPV averages in the precincts and districts that they run in. Or maybe that’s a consequence of going door-to-door, or making phone calls, or sending out literature to vote “straight democrat”. But to push something as undemocratic as straight party voting on a voter goes against the very principles of elections because it’s no longer a person running for office – it’s a party that is… it’s a political party whose qualities are considered – and not a person. This is more than one party against another party, and how their strategies differ as to how they take advantage of the master level. This is about a voter putting into office a qualified candidate, not a vanilla version of some party principles.
A comment by Matt Jerzyk to TPublico’s post provides proof to this point:
Well…we ran a kick-ass “vote straight Democrat” campaign in South Providence and I am glad to see that it worked.
Reps. Almeida, Diaz and Slater received 3/4 of their votes through straight Democratic voting.
Never underestimate the power of an organized electorate!
Matt also responded to Segal’s post on the topic:
The bottom line is that the RI Republican Party is horrible at the basics of running a party:
1) identifying candidates
2) raising money
3) training candidates
4) running a GOTV program.
If and when they get to a point when they can do 1-4, then we can talk about systematic “hurdles” to getting elected.
Baby steps, RIGOP, baby steps.
So whether or not the SPV is unfair is only relevant if certain conditions are met by the party out of power? This is all just smoke-and-mirrors meant to convey “open-mindedness” to the idea of abolishing the SPV option whilst trying to make it impossible to affect by creating arbitrary milestones. Setting aside the “who” and “how” of determining when the milestones outlined have been reached, explain to me how these would apply to an Independent candidate? No, there will be no push to abolish the SPV option by those currently in the political majority, no matter their rhetoric. Fairness is relative, after all, especially if it may impede the maintenance of raw power.
ADDENDUM: The NEA’s Bob Walsh has weighed in:
The greatest irony…in this entire debate is that the elimination of straight party voting empowers the groups that Achorn dislikes the most, as down-ballot candidates will be more, not less, dependent on the grassroots get out the vote efforts they (we) bring to the table.
Fine, let’s get rid of it and let the vaunted grassroots do their thing. But I think that both Walsh and some commenters, including Matt J. and “Greg”, are using Achorn’s column as an excuse to gloss over the MAIN point that both TPublico and I are trying to pound. The SPV option should go because it enables so-called machine, party-over-person politics.